A Lesson in Covering Pseudoscience

Paul Fidalgo alerted me to two interesting takes on a recent meta-analysis of acupuncture research. The research wanted to know if there was evidence supporting acupuncture’s usage over no acupuncture and “fake” acupuncture.

Let’s see what the Associated Press said about the research in its opening paragraph:

Acupuncture gets a thumbs-up for helping relieve pain from chronic headaches, backaches and arthritis in a review of more than two dozen studies — the latest analysis of an often-studied therapy that has as many fans as critics.

And now The Guardian (UK):

Acupuncture could be a useful treatment in some cases of chronic pain, according to a study that pooled the results of 29 clinical trials on almost 18,000 people. But the overall benefits were small, compared with no acupuncture or sham acupuncture.

I’m not talking about the actual results here. You can discuss those all you want. I’m just talking about the media’s coverage of it. The Guardian is quick to point out that any benefits are minimal at best, while the AP appears to celebrate its amazing power. (To the AP’s credit, they eventually get a soundbyte from Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch.)

To what do you attribute the differences?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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